French teenager Isabelle is spending her summer holiday with her middle-class family in the south of France and decides to lose her virginity with German teenager Felix. Then she returns to Paris with her mother Sylvie, her stepfather Patrick and her younger brother Victor. Then Isabelle works as a call girl using the nickname Lea, meeting old men. She feels affection for her client Georges that is married with a daughter. When Georges dies from a heart attack while having sex with Isabelle in a hotel, she flees but the police investigate and identify her. The detectives in charge of the investigation disclose to Sylvie, who is devastated.
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
User Reviews: The French have quite a tradition of films about prostitution. Starting of course by ‘Belle de Jour’, the iconic movie in which Cathérine Deneuve decides to work in a brothel out of boredom. Ten years ago, there was ‘Nathalie’, with Emannuelle Béart in the role of a high- class call girl who is hired to spy on a man suspected of adultery. And only two years ago, the underrated ‘Elles’ hit the screens, with Anaïs Demoustier as a young call girl and Juliette Binoche as a journalist writing a story about prostitution by students. These are just three examples, I’m sure there are more.
And now, ‘Jeune et Jolie’ (Young and Beautiful) is continuing the tradition. It tells the story of Isabelle, a quiet seventeen year old girl, who for unknown reasons starts working as a call girl. The film is divided into four chapters, one for every season. In the summer part, Isabelle loses her virginity to a German hunk during a beach holiday, just days before her seventeenth birthday. The next part is set in the autumn, and already Isabelle is working as a high heeled hooker, routinely visiting paying customers in posh Parisian hotels. The next winter everything goes wrong and her parents learn about her secret life. The last part, set in spring, shows how she is trying to pick up her old life as a student, but it’s difficult to erase the past.
The good thing is that director François Ozon doesn’t judge Isabelle, nor explains why she does what she does. He only suggests that she is not really happy, she seems remote, ill- tempered and emotionally vulnerable. Isabelle is not very popular or likable. The only one she really seems to connect to on an emotional level, is her younger brother Victor. In a recent interview, actress Marine Vacth suggests that Isabelle just wants to try something exciting. It might as well have been drugs.
Ozon tells the story well. Because of the four seasons concept, the story keeps on developing. He also throws in some nice cinematographic treats, like the small scene of Isabelle and her fellow students commenting in close-up about a poem by Rimbaud. The final scene consists of a surprising twist, involving some superb acting by Charlotte Rampling. Also working very well are the songs by Françoise Hardy on the soundtrack.
Apparently, ‘Jeune & Jolie’ has been described as ‘Belle de Jour 2.0’. That is definitely exaggerated. But nevertheless, it is a fine coming-of-age film.